Caleb goes on about “Life being too short for cheap gear” and a lively argument has broken out in the comments about whether the “one-bedside-gun” owner should save up for a $300-$400 gun or buy a $100-$200 used gun. The reliability goes down quite sharply at the low end and an unreliable gun in the hands of a novice is a bad idea, goes one side of the argument; they are better served by paying double for the security of knowing that their bedside conversation starter will speak for them all the time.
Which brings me to my thought: why are guns so durn expensive. Answer is two-fold: “economies of scale,” and “purchaser conservatism.” The first is at least partially due to government meddling; the harder it is to manufacture, purchase, own, and transport firearms, the less people will do any of those, and the smaller the market for firearms. It’s terribly hard to be a garage-shop innovator in firearms due to the insane over-regulation of firearms manufacturers, for example; and the smaller the market, the less customers you have to spread the fixed costs of innovation over. This should get better as we move closer to Constitutional scheme for firearms regulation, thankfully, as the forces driving lower firearms ownership will be reversed.
The second is harder to overcome. For a number of reasons, purchasers of firearms aren’t looking for the Next Big Thing; in fact they prefer the familiar to an astonishing extent. The continued wild popularity of the 1911-pattern pistol is one of the best examples. The validity of the reasons is outside the scope of my post; so I’ll take it as given. But I don’t have any good arguments against dependence on proven designs, either.
There’s a third reason that the market space for new firearms is lower than you might think; firearms are durable goods. There’s no reason in the world that you can’t continue to use a smokeless-powder firearm manufactured a hundred years or more ago today, if the weapon itself if sound; and there are plenty of mechanically-sound firearms kicking around. However, this should force down the costs of new firearms, because they have to compete with used firearms – which doesn’t help innovation because that meanst here’s less profit margin on the new guns.